‘I want to leave home less and less.’
As the sixth week of the stay-at-home order in California begins, I realize that I’ve become deranged and must be suffering from a Coronavirus pandemic-induced Stockholm syndrome because I keep thinking: I don’t want the quarantine to end.
Outside my home’s bubble is tragedy: Thousands upon tens of thousands of lives lost to this insidious malady, and despite the most optimistic spin, no effective treatment or vaccine. Even where the disease has reached a plateau – it is a plateau where hundreds die each day. Millions are unemployed and businesses are devastated, have failed or will fail.
This is enough to drive anyone crazy. And from what I see on my TV, it has: There are groups of people protesting and clamoring to be allowed to catch coronavirus. If that’s not meshuggeh, I don’t know what is.
Frankly, I’m moving in the other direction: I want to leave home less and less. When I do, for some errand, I rush as if I’m in ‘Mission Impossible.’ It’s never more than a speedy in and out wearing gloves and a mask (sometimes two). I’m not surprised to hear speeding tickets are up 700%. And it’s strange out there – those people outside completely disregard the traffic signals; some are just walking down the middle of the street.
Back at home, my wife and adult daughter and I are —- wait for it – actually getting along. We are cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner. We are cleaning and sanitizing and handwashing like we are on a game show and expect to win a prize. There are home appliances that I confess I am using for the first time in….ever. We are watching movies and concerts that we would never go to or be able to see IRL – Broadway shows, star-studded benefit concerts, even a ballet performance. Ok that last one was just me, but the point is there is increasingly more to see at home than out.
Do I miss my friends? I now call, facetime and zoom with them in a way that’s more immediate than I ever did before. I may miss restaurants, but now I can get takeout or delivery from places where I could never get a reservation, at prices that are far more reasonable than dining there. Dining in has its advantages. It’s not just about me. In the midst of all the tragedy and death, there has been an unexpected benefit thanks to the stay-at-home orders and quarantine; it has been as if the whole world is on an intermittent fast from some of our worst behaviors.
During the last six weeks in the United States: no school shootings, no mass killing rampages, no active shooter events. (I realize that with schools being closed the opportunity doesn’t exist, but regardless of the reason, the rage of the shooters seems to have been temporarily muted). Even the Middle East has calmed down (and Israel may actually have a government).
The thick smog of New Delhi has disappeared and, for the first time in decades, one can see clear across the city. The water in the Venice canals is remarkably clear. In Los Angeles, the air is the cleanest it has been in 30 years (probably cleaner than 30 years ago because there were fewer pollution controls then). In National Parks all over the world, animal life is flourishing. All doubt that we could improve the environmental quality of our planet has been quashed by staying at home.
I can’t help but think that all those busy business people who felt it imperative to spend most of their time on planes, and who insisted that they needed to travel to hold meetings and meet with people in person, are now discovering how much can be done in one place on a phone or across a computer screen. All those people who were forced to spend one to three hours a day to commute to work are wondering why that seemed so necessary. And imagine what we could do with all those empty parking structures and parking spaces, office space and construction projects if more people stayed home more often.
Ironies abound: It is hard not to think of all those people who were poised to take a vacation at some luxe resort in a foreign destination who are now grateful to be home. Most people I know are getting more exercise more consistently at home than they did through their expensive gym memberships or group fitness classes. And people who would never dance in public are now enjoying dancing at home, coming up with routines for Tik-Tok or taking all kinds of classes. You can even join classes in the Israeli developed dance method Gaga (no relation to the pop star) where you channel your personal Joe Cocker imitation along to their directed movement classes. Yup, I tried one – it’s one of the strangest things I’ve ever done, but I admit I felt good afterwards.
Of course, in time the public health hazard of Coronavirus will become more manageable and we will have effective treatment and, perhaps, even a vaccine. If history is any guide, most of humanity will go back to behaving much as we did before. For some slowly, and for others immediately with great brio and gusto.
As for me, I’ll be the one hoping California Governor Gavin Newsome extends the stay-at-home order.